When Bill Carter ’69 graduated from Texas A&M University, he resolved that he would give back to his profession, to Texas A&M and to his community. This goal has driven his accomplishments in all three areas and is the inspiration for a $5 million planned gift from Carter and his wife, Fran, to support the Financial Planning Program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
A career and a passion
As a student, Carter made a lasting impression on Texas A&M. He was student body president, a Corps of Cadets adjutant and a distinguished military graduate.
After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army before building Carter Financial Management in Dallas. He attributes much of his business success to his degree from the Department of Agricultural Economics and to the growth of financial planning as a profession.
“I wanted to make a difference in the things I did,” Carter said. “I didn’t want to look back on my life and say, ‘So what.’ Financial planning fits into that objective because it’s a profession where you can really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Carter said he enjoys the role certified financial planners have in enhancing the quality of life of individuals and families. That role was always his motivation, and, throughout his career, he contributed to developing the profession. He has served as chairman of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, president of the International Association for Financial Planning, held numerous leadership roles with the Institute of Certified Financial Planners and chaired the Foundation for Financial Planning.
Giving back: A lifelong trait
While building his business and fulfilling many leadership roles within his profession, Carter also gave back to his alma mater. He served as president of The Association of Former Students and chairman of the board of the Texas A&M Foundation.
He was inducted into the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor. As chair of the Corps of Cadets Committee for Enrollment and Strength, Carter promoted the need for a leadership center. The concept became what is now the Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership.
Carter was inducted into the Tyrus R. Timm Honor Registry, the Department of Agricultural Economics’ highest honor for its graduates. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas A&M and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Carters have been involved in many community and charitable organizations, including the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Baylor University Medical Center and The Senior Source.
A vision for the best financial planning program
For more than a decade, Carter has helped develop a financial planning program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the planned gift is a part of that endeavor.
Carter worked with Gene Nelson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of agricultural economics, and John Nichols, Ph.D., professor emeritus of agricultural economics, to explore the potential for teaching financial planning.
For Carter, developing the program became a passion and a tribute to both the university and his profession. Since its beginning, the program has prepared Texas A&M students for career opportunities and provided outstanding candidates for the financial planning industry.
The program began as a certificate program, but Carter’s vision was always much larger than that.
“Bill said, ‘I want this to be not just a good financial planning program. I want it to be the best, most recognized financial planning program in the country,” said Nathan Harness, Ph.D., director of financial planning in the office for student professional development within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“Texas A&M students’ work ethic matches well the values and vision Carter set out from the beginning,” Harness said. “Within the industry, the demand for our students has grown exponentially.”
Along the way, the Carters have supported the program financially and by giving their time and energy to support the students. They provide a welcoming environment with events in their home to create a sense of community among the students.
Mariel Braun ’15, an early student in the program, earned a degree in agricultural economics with a certificate in financial planning. She is now a senior adviser for Baker Tilly Wealth Management, helping clients achieve their financial goals in investment and estate planning.
“Without Bill Carter, I would not be an Aggie,” Braun said. When she told her mother she wanted to be a financial planner, her mother replied, “If you want to be a financial planner, you need to talk to the best one I know.” Carter met with Braun and “sang the praises of Texas A&M, how wonderful the community is and the value of a degree from this university,” Braun said.
The program helped her learn to network, refine her professionalism and set her up for success, she said. She gained confidence and the insight that a career in financial planning is not just about the money, but about changing lives and making a positive impact on her clients’ financial well-being.
When the students attended conferences, Carter was often in the front row during their competition presentations, cheering them on.
“I was excited to see the joy in his expression and that the program was happening because I knew it was extremely dear to his heart,” Braun said.
A shared dream
Fran Carter knows how rewarding it is to be involved in a profession that makes a difference in people’s lives. Her career in the real estate and mortgage business in Dallas “was a ‘people job’ and I just loved it,” she said.
That is why she understood and supported Bill’s directed purpose to making the Financial Planning Program a reality.
“The program truly is Bill’s passion, and that made it my passion,” Fran said. “The love he has for this program, the fact that A&M is now where it is, is a life dream for him. Establishing it means everything to him.
“And, the students are happy to be where they are and grateful to Bill for just a phone call or when they can call him and talk to him about something, and he loves it! He welcomes it,” she said.
Expanding the program
The Financial Planning Program is now part of a new academic effort to increase students’ business acumen. An office for student professional development emphasizes professional development and entrepreneurial skills for all undergraduate and professional graduate students.
The program is growing and students from disciplines throughout the College and university have participated. It offers the option to pursue a certificate or a minor, and there are plans for a major in financial planning.
“If you have a mind for business and a heart for people, this is a program for you,” Harness said.
The program’s core courses range from an introductory view of financial planning fundamentals to the individual elements of personal financial planning, such as investments, retirement, estate planning, life insurance and tax-planning considerations. Students learn practical applications and gain experience in the capstone course by developing a comprehensive financial plan for a client.
“Bill and Fran Carter helped carry the idea of the Financial Planning Program from a plan to a reality at Texas A&M,” Harness said. “They both have endless energy, passion and excitement for the things that they love. Fortunately, Texas A&M is at the top of that list. They love this university and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and have proven that not only with their words, but also with their service.”
To support the growth of the Financial Planning Program, the Carters’ planned gift will create scholarships and high-impact events for students such as participation in competitions, networking events, mentorship opportunities and a lecture series for students to learn from prominent industry and academic experts. The gift will also establish the Carter Fellows student ambassadors and support their attendance at competitions, conferences, industry site visits and more.
Another endowment included in the gift is a personal one. The Carters have always had several pets. “I’m sure we’ll have animals as we get older that might outlive us, and I want to know they will be taken care of,” Fran said.
The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at Texas A&M provides a life-long, home-like environment for companion animals when their owners can no longer care for them. Distributions from the fund for the Fran Carter Stevenson Center Endowment will benefit the Stevenson Center and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Preparing the next generation of financial planners
The Carters’ planned gift will add enormous momentum and resources to equipping future generations of financial planners. Bill sees a bright and meaningful career for these students, with the profession continuing to grow.
“We graduate students who are talented, well-educated and have the right attitude about life,” Carter said. “We have outstanding leadership and support from the College leadership, professors and Dr. Harness. I don’t know how it could be any better than that.
“I’ve been fortunate to realize the goals I wanted to achieve, and it has been fulfilling. The biggest one with Texas A&M was beginning the Financial Planning Program. When you can live your life’s dream, that’s special.”
For more information about the Financial Planning Program, visit financialplanning.tamu.edu.
To learn how to give to the Financial Planning Program, contact Megan Hutchison, philanthropic advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Collin Arledge, philanthropic advisor, at email@example.com.